Shanga Hankerson, 45, of Atlanta, was sentenced to serve two years in prison, one year of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,039,310.65 in restitution. Hankerson is the former owner of Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles restaurant in Atlanta.
"Hankerson willfully disregarded his tax obligations for many years," said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. "Payroll taxes fund social insurance programs, including Social Security and Medicare, and are a large source of revenue for the federal government. Employers who fail to comply with their legal obligations will be held accountable."
According to Erskine and court documents, Hankerson opened his first chicken and waffles restaurant in 1997 in Atlanta. He expanded the concept to at least three other locations in north Georgia and in Washington, D.C. over the next several years and was the sole owner of the business that operated the restaurants.
As the sole owner, Hankerson was the person responsible for collecting, accounting for and paying payroll taxes.
"From at least 2012 to 2016, Hankerson failed to fully remit over $1 million in payroll taxes due," Erskine said in a press release issued Friday.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
"While ownership of a well-known restaurant in our community has its perks, it also comes with great responsibility," said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey. "Paying taxes is a way to give back to the community, but unfortunately Hankerson chose to use those funds for other means. This sentencing emphasizes that all employers, big and small, have equal responsibility to collect, report, and pay over their payroll taxes."